The virus can infect animals, including dogs, and lead to serious illness or death, according to the El Segundo Police Department.
PALOS VERDES, CA – Various cases of distemper has been reported around the South Bay. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has received several reports of raccoons in the area showing symptoms of the virus, which can infect animals, including dogs, and lead to serious illness or death, according to the El Segundo Police Department.
Distemper (also known as canine distemper) is caused by a virus and can infect dogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and large cats such as lions and tigers, according to ESPD. The virus infects the lungs, airways, nose, eyes, and brain, and suppress the immune system. Distemper can cause serious illness and death in these animals – it does not cause illness in cats or people.
Dogs catch distemper from other dogs or wild animals that are infected with it by having direct contact with the sick animal, or standing near it when it's coughing. They can also catch it if they have contact with food bowls or other objects that were contaminated by infected animals, according to ESPD. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are the most likely to catch it.
Coughing is the most common symptom, although infected animals usually develop a fever and discharge from their eyes and nose. The disease can also cause disorientation, tremors, twitches and seizures. Infected animals are vulnerable to catching more infections, such as bacterial pneumonia. The symptoms are similar in raccoons and other wildlife, the press release said.
Veterinarians can order blood and urine tests to test a dog for distemper, although your dog isn't likely to be infected if it received a full series of three or more distemper vaccinations when it was a puppy. Currently, there is no treatment that kills the virus inside the animal. Veterinarians administer medications to fight the extra infections (such as pneumonia) and to prevent seizures, while the dog's body fights off the virus.
How to prevent distemper in dogs:
- Vaccination. Distemper is prevented by vaccinating puppies with a series of 3 or more distemper vaccines between the ages of 2 and 4 months. Distemper is the "D" in the DHLPP vaccine for dogs. The vaccine must be given again (booster) a year later, then every three years for life.
- Protect puppies. Keep puppies at home, away from unfamiliar dogs, until they have finished their complete vaccination series.
- Keep your dog away from sick dogs and wildlife. Do not let your dog have direct contact with any sick dogs, nor share food or water bowls with them.
- Keep pet food and water indoors, away from wildlife. Outdoor pet food and water can attract raccoons and other wildlife. Distemper outbreaks occur in raccoons in Los Angeles County periodically; sick raccoons can contaminate the bowls and transfer the virus to your dog.
If you have additional questions, please contact ESPD Animal Control Officer Joe Camagong at (310) 524-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.